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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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TOLDJA! Nikki Finke rewrites history

April 27, 2009 | 10:54 am

From my days as a cub reporter, I was trained that you try to get the story right, but if you don't, you admit that you messed up and try to do better next time. That's not the way it works with Deadline Hollywood's Nikki Finke. She's a fearless reporter who's landed lots of great scoops, but she has one huge flaw -- she won't admit to making a mistake. She just rewrites history.

Eclipse_l That's especially true when it comes to how she's covered the story of Summit Entertainment hiring a director for "Eclipse," the third film in its "Twilight" series. As you may remember, since it prompted a mini-donnybrook, I called her out when she ran a post on March 11th, headlined: "Summit Picks Bayona to Direct 'Twilight' Threequel 'Eclipse: Will Fans Say Ole?"

As it turned out, the studio hadn't picked anyone, certainly not Juan Antonio Bayona, the Spanish filmmaker who, as Summit production chief Erik Feig told me at the time, was simply one of many candidates for the job. Summit probably would've loved for Bayona to direct the film, but it's not news in Hollywood when producers want to hire talent. It's news when the talent takes the job. In fact, Bayona didn't even want the gig. Now, six weeks later, Summit finally did pick a director -- not Bayona, but David Slade -- and Finke put up a post, headlined: "TOLDJA! David Slade to Direct 'Eclipse.' " The exclamatory use of "Toldja!" refers to the fact that she ran a post a day or so earlier saying "insiders" told her Summit was talking to Slade about the job.

But what about that original post -- the one that said Summit had hired Bayona? Finke, who invariably links back to all her previous stories, doesn't link or even mention her original "Summit Picks Bayona" post. But it gets even worse, according to Bill Wyman, a web-based media and music critic who writes the Hitsville blog. I guess Finke's brazen use of "TOLDJA!" to take credit for a scoop that she got wrong in the first place stuck in Wyman's craw. So he went back and found her original post, did some web detective work and, as you can see from his post, discovered that Finke had -- as he puts it -- "went back to change her original item to make herself look better without telling readers."

As Wyman explains, the first two sentences of Finke's original post read: "I can confirm that Summit Entertainment is telling Hollywood privately that Juan Antonio Bayona will direct 'Eclipse.' It's a very out-of-the-box choice for the 3rd movie in the 'Twilight Saga' series of Stephenie Meyer vampire novels being hurried to the big screen by the start-up studio." But now, if you search out the post in her archives, the first sentence is followed by two new sentences: "I'm not saying he's been offered the job or hired, which in Hollywood involves deal memos, signed contracts, and the like. Just that the studio execs Wednesday night passed the word he's the guy."

If those qualifiers had been there six weeks ago, I wouldn't have bothered to call Nikki out. But they weren't. She's now covering her tracks by rewriting history. As Wyman puts it: "Finke got a big item wrong; went postal on another journalist who called her on it; made up a lot of wacky stuff; went back to change her original item to make herself look better without telling readers and then, just to complete the pentathlon of bad journalism practices she was engaged in, patted herself on the back for a scoop on a bit of information she got wrong originally."

Unlike Finke, who regularly bashes other journalists without bothering to get their side of the story, I gave Finke an opportunity to explain why she doesn't tell her readers when she revises a post, as is customary in the blogosphere. Here's her response: "My readers expect and encourage me to constantly tweak and edit and clarify and proofread and update and add to DHD posts 24/7. That's the advantage of Internet news over print." Oh!

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